Maria Zakharova about UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay’s visit to Ukraine

Question: Reportedly, the Director-General of UNESCO visited Kiev and Odessa the other day. What’s your take on this move by Audrey Azoulay?

Maria Zakharova: We took note of UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay’s recent trip to Ukraine.

Unfortunately, her remarks during her visit to Ukraine make us think of her visit as a political public relations stunt.

One could only welcome the UNESCO Director-General’s resolve to provide effective support to education, science and culture within her mandate and to uphold the right to self-expression and one’s native language, including in Ukraine, if this support were to be provided on an equal and non-discriminatory basis without regard to race, gender, language, religion, political or other beliefs, ethnic or social origin, etc. However, Audrey Azoulay never uttered a word over the nine years of the tragedy in Donbass and against the background of many years of persecution of the Russian language, culture and education in the present-day Ukraine, the suppression of freedom of speech, the glorification of Nazi henchmen, persecution of dissidents, inciting interethnic and inter-religious animosity, and Neanderthal Russophobia. For the sake of imaginary political correctness, she chose not to see the bombed-out schools, hospitals and churches, dismembered bodies of children, teachers and journalists, not to mention such a trifle as the war on monuments.

During her stay in Ukraine, Ms Azoulay took part in a grand ceremony for unveiling a plaque at a new World Heritage site – the historical centre of Odessa – standing shoulder to shoulder with the people who adopt and then implement decisions to destroy numerous cultural monuments evoking the glorious historical past of that city. And it doesn’t seem to bother her at all. The Director-General does not seem to be concerned by the fact that a couple of months ago, when reviewing the city’s application for inclusion on the UNESCO List, international experts were denied entry to Odessa on account of “security conditions,” but exactly the same “conditions” did not prevent her from coming there now. As a reminder, the very decision on Odessa was brazenly pushed through by a minority of states in disregard of the existing rules of procedure.

It is regrettable that UNESCO – a respected organisation with an established international reputation – with the connivance of a number of senior Secretariat officials, has become a victim of the Western countries’ policies which assigned it the role of a mere mouthpiece for Ukrainian propaganda.